The Alfombras of Semana Santa – Antigua, Guatemala

2019-01-28T09:22:19+00:00April 28, 2011   ||   Posted in: Guatemala - , ||   6 Comments
This post is part 2 of 6 in the series Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala

If you already read our handy Semana Santa Primer post, then skip ahead to the pretty pictures. For the rest of you…Alfombra is the Spanish word for carpet and that’s exactly what these temporary, organic pieces of street art are meant to be–fancy carpets that pave the way for elaborate Semana Santa processions which take place in Antigua, Guatemala during the most mind blowing Easter celebration in the Americas.

Semana Santa alfombras in Antigua, Guatemala

People spend as much as they can on alfombra ingredients which range from flowers to vibrantly dyed wood shavings and sawdust to fruits and vegetables to tiny Noah’s arcs. Styles vary too. Some are hand-made and, thus, imperfect. Others are done meticulously using stencil cut outs and exact measurements. Some designs are circles or even 90 degree angles around corners. Some are covered in vegetables. Some are playful. Some are not.

Click any image below to see a larger version.


Alfombras are typically created by an entire extended family on the cobblestone street in front of their home but local businesses create alfombras too. No matter who made them it’s the approaching procession that destroys them. Hundreds of feet carrying floats weighing thousands of pounds walk right over the alfombras. Once the procession has passed, a clean up crew arrives and sweeps the once beautiful alfombra into a pile so a mini front-end-loader can scoop up the mess and lift it unceremoniously into a waiting dump truck.

Like life, an alfombra is impermanent. The process reminded us of the sand mandalas we watched Buddhists make (and then destroy) during our travels in Asia. We fell in love with alfombras of all shapes, sizes and styles and we’ve included many of our favorites in the slideshow, above. And don’t miss the slide show at the bottom of this post which shows us helping to make an alfombra with Evelyn Herrera and her wonderful staff at Hotel San Jorge.

Click any image below to see a larger version.


We got two special Easter gifts this year. The first was from our friends Judy and Gene who so generously let us stay in their beautiful home in Antigua during Semana Santa when its nearly impossible to find a hotel room unless you’ve booked way in advance.

Making a Semana Santa alfombra in Antigua, Guatemala

The second gift was from their friend Evelyn Herrera whose family owns the lovely Hotel San Jorge (Central location! Big garden courtyard! A fireplace in every room! WiFi! An economical mid-range price!). She invited us to help make the hotel’s alfombra, which turned out to be a blast as we snipped and stripped the flowers Evelyn had gone to the market to buy at 6 am.

alfombra ingredients antigua guatemala

We had a blast using these ingredients to help make a Semana Santa alfombra in Antigua, Guatemala.

Evelyn also picked up a four foot (1.5 meter) long, hard, canoe-shaped pod of something called corozo. The thing grows on a palm and when you split it open (with some considerable effort) the inside contains a large stem full of what looks like pliable rice. This is a Semana Santa must-have and almost every alfombra uses corozo.

We pulled the rice-like stuff off the vine and sprinkled it into the design, the hard pod was cut up and used to fashion baskets on both ends of the alfombra. Heck, with more than 800 quetzales (a little over US$100) worth of ingredients it was all hands on deck to get the stuff prepped and placed just so following Evelyn’s design.

The slide show, below, shows you our progress from naked street to finished alfombra to passing procession to pile of trash.

Click any image below to see a larger version.


Go deeper into this fascinating annual event in our complete series of posts about Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala

 

Here’s more about travel in Guatemala

 

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Series Navigation:<< Semana Santa Processions Palm Sunday to Good Friday – Antigua, GuatemalaHow to Speak Semana Santa – Antigua, Guatemala >>

6 Comments

  1. Paula Kiger April 30, 2011 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed this! My daughter and I are taking our first trip to Guatemala in July 2011.

  2. Suzy May 1, 2011 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    I love all of the colors here. It’s great you guys got to actually help make an alfombra. It is somewhat sad though these creations are scooped up when the celebration is over. I guess they would be hard to maintain in the streets!

  3. Raymond May 2, 2011 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Very cool that you got in on the action and helped make one. And love the way you displayed your photos. Very nice!

  4. Anthony - Motojournalism.com May 7, 2011 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    Absolutely wonderful, Antigua is one of my favourite cities in the world.

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